The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War

By Raymond L. Garthoff | Go to book overview

Introduction

HISTORY IS A seamless continuity, but it has significant turning points. The period covered by this study virtually defines itself. The year 1981 marked the advent of the Reagan administration, the last Cold War presidency in the United States, and a vintage one--with the most avowed anticommunist crusading policy in two decades. The new administration's stance also seemed to confirm to a reluctant Soviet leadership, blind to its own large share of responsibility, that the turn away from détente by the predecessor Carter administration a year earlier had indeed become the determined bipartisan policy of the United States.1

The reason for concluding this book at the end of 1991 is readily apparent. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and of communist rule marks a natural turning point, indeed a historic divide. American-Russian relations, and relations with the other successor states of the USSR, are grounded in what has occurred heretofore, but a new era has arrived. The years of a great transition, from renewed Cold War at the beginning of the 1980s through remarkable changes during the decade leading to the end of the Cold War by the beginning of the 1990s, are thus the theme of this book. This turning point is now history, albeit recent history. That history is also the inescapable foundation for what is now occurring and will evolve.

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1
This analysis picks up the story from my earlier account of the rise and fall of the détente of the 1970s, covering 1969 through 1980, the years of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. See Raymond L. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation: American- Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan ( Brookings, 1985; revised edition, 1994). That study deals in depth with the period from 1969 through 1980; the 1985 edition also included a brief preliminary look at the period 1981-84. The revised edition has been updated to take account of new information, including recently declassified American and Soviet documents. It has also been revised to reflect perspectives derived from the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

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